Jessica McAtamney starts her day with a class full of eager environmentalists. Some seek careers in agriculture, others in labs, while others wants to be like her—a teacher.
Students in the teacher's AP Environmental Science class (or APES, as they call it) will demonstrate their skills at the Philadelphia Science Festival. On April 22, the students will set up a booth at Bartram's Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, and share their knowledge along with other urban agricultural institutes.
Their exhibit is twofold—offering consumer tests for organic beauty products and organic foods.
"The objective is 'grow it, cook it, eat.' They are looking at products they can grow at home and integrate into a daily beauty or nutritional regime," McAtamney said.
Which Do You Prefer?
Students will take turns offering demonstrations to allow people to taste organic food and apply organic makeup, and compare them to typical products. The ideas evolved from students own experiences with food and beauty products and a desire to test which methods users prefer.
"Basically, we'll set up a both, and people will sit down and receive a facial," Lasheda Brooks said, with another classmate adding the mudbath will be comprised of natural materials—yogurt, oatmeal, chocolate, cucumbers. This is different than a typical facial, which contains chemicals.
The food test is similar.
"For example, we'll offer organic carrots verses commercially grown carrots like you get in the supermarket. People will get chance to taste both and say what they prefer," Katelyn Jacob said.
In explaining the food taste test, Archeline Pierrilus said Saul wanted to educate the key differences between organic and normal food.
"You're not adding pesticides, extra hormones in the food. For the carrot example, we'll ask, 'Is it going to taste worse or better without the pesticides?' We want to change what's in some people's minds," Pierrilus said.
For the students themselves, there was a split—as far as food goes—as to whether they should implement organics into their daily regimes or not.
"I personally prefer organic food... The organic carrot is so much sweeter. It tastes fresh. This is what a carrot should taste like," Jacob said.
For Brooks' household, like for many, the cost associated with organic produce doesn't outweigh the benefits.
"My mom has this idea that organic is so much more expensive... and she's right, it is," she said, generally speaking.
At Saul, students are involved in community supported agriculture (mostly at the Roxborough campus), where the school sells out crop shares to residents. This allows both students and neighbors alike an accessible option for fresh produce.
"Personally, I feel farmers markets or CSA are so much better than going to ShopRite," Jacob said. "Because you know you are growing it, you get a happy feeling that it's all fresh."
As the science festival is in its second year, this is Saul's first time participating.
"This is is a first, but we work with the community a lot in our student conservation program," student Erica Forstater said. "In West Philly, I got to help create a new recreation center."
Their teacher said these students embody the growing urban trend.
"I think it's nice that kids from Saul High School get to represent the area in which we are studying, agriculture... In the city right now, it's very cool to be involved in local growing, and these kids represent urban youth well," McAtamney said.
The April 22 events is from noon to 3 p.m. and costs $10. Visit the Philadelphia Science Festival for more information.